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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

How to Learn the Basic Word List      233
same for all the shifts mentioned above The process of change reaches
its peak in South German, including German Swiss (High Alemanic)
dialects As we go north and north-west, the typical High German
sounds fade out and disappear in the plains. The Low German of north
and north-east Germany, hke Dutch and Flemish which are really Low
German dialects with their own spelling rules, remains true to the
earlier Germanic sound-pattern A line across Germany divides a
region where Low German forms predominate from one where the
High German prevail It runs from the Belgian frontier south of
Aachen to Dusseldorf, thence to Cassel, striking the Elbe above Magde-
buig, passes north of Luther's Wittenberg, and touches the Polish
fiontier north-east of Frankfort-on-the-Oder North of the line we
hear dat Water, South of it, das Wasser
In what has gone before we have seen that English consonants are
conservative The consonants of English have departed from the Old
Teutonic pattern less than those of any Teutonic language except
Icelandic  The reverse is true of the vowels   In the middle period
during the century in which Chaucer wrote, the English vowels shifted
while the spelling remained fixed   This explains why we so often
succeed in identifying an English word with a German one when we see
the two in print, but fail to do so when they strike our ear. German
vowels also shifted between the Middle High German and the Modern
High German period, and the evolution of two English and German'
vowels runs parallel. In both languages a primitive long I (pronounced
ee as in bee) became the diphthong^ mfly. The German spells it as El
(Aliddle High German mm. Modern High German mein)^ while English
retains the older spelling (Old English mn, Modern English mine). The
primitive long u (hke oo in food) went through a similar process, but
this tune the diphthong (ow as in how) is indicated as such in both
languages  The German spells it as AU (Middle High German hus>
Modern High German Haus) In English it is OU or OW (Old English
mus, bruny Modern English mouse, brown)   In all, there were seven
characteristic vowel-changes in Middle English, including the two
mentioned Not all of them extended to Scotland, where house is still
pronounced hke its Scandinavian equivalent hus and a cow is a ku
Owing to the chaos of English vowel symbols, these sound-shifts
are not of very great assistance to the beginner Like Spanish, modern
German spelling is very regular compared with our own The following
paragraph summarizes its essential conventions At a first reading it will
be wise to SKIP it, as also to skip the succeeding ones (pp 236-237)